עומס בתחבורה הציבורית בחברה החרדית בירשולים בצל נגיך הקורונה
A crowded Jerusalem city bus
Photo: Eli Mandelbaum
A crowded Jerusalem city bus

Public transport resumption blamed for new COVID-19 cases

After the cabinet’s decision to increase the number of passengers allowed on buses, drivers say they do not feel safe while experts warn that social distancing is not observed in public transport

Asaf Zagrizek |
Published: 05.31.20 , 20:15
A rise in contagion of COVID-19 in Israel over the past two weeks has been attributed to public transport, with 177 new cases reported.

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  • The Health Ministry posted the epidemiologic tracing of those confirmed to have contracted the virus on its website, but a surge of users attempting to access the information has brought the site down repeatedly.
    עומס בתחבורה הציבורית בחברה החרדית בירשולים בצל נגיך הקורונהעומס בתחבורה הציבורית בחברה החרדית בירשולים בצל נגיך הקורונה
    A crowded Jerusalem city bus
    (Photo: Eli Mandelbaum)
    A confirmed carrier of COVID-19 traveled on Thursday from Ashdod to the Haredi city of Elad.
    Two other people who were exposed to the virus traveled on an inter-city bus from Tel Aviv to Netanya.
    A day earlier, seven people who had since been confirmed to have the virus also traveled on public buses.
    Since Midnight on Saturday, 32 passengers using public buses, have tested positive with COVID-19, double the number of the day before.
    On Sunday, queues of people waiting to board buses made social distancing impossible in major bus stations after the number of passengers on any given bus was increased to 46 following a cabinet decision on Thursday.
    Ilan, a bus driver who was confirmed with the virus in April and has since recovered, said he is frightened to work with the public.
    “Some passengers remove their face masks after they board the bus. It feels like we have been abandoned and the partitions between drivers and passengers that had been promised were never installed."
    Another driver said there is no doubt that drivers are exposed to whatever passengers bring with them.
    עומס בתחנה המרכזית בירושליםעומס בתחנה המרכזית בירושלים
    Crowds at the Jerusalem central bus station
    (Photo: Suf Patishi)
    “Many board without face masks and I can feel their breath near my face," he said, adding that it would be months before partitions are erected in the buses.
    “I know of three drivers who have recently tested positive," he said.
    Erel Avineri, professor of Transportation Research at Afeka Tel Aviv Academic College of Engineering, believes the true number of contagions due to public transportation is higher than reported by health officials.
    "If social distancing is required everywhere, it should be observed on buses as well,” he said, criticizing the government for making unclear decisions that were based on political rivalries and a lack of available buses.
    Avineri said that the Health Ministry's failure to publish updated numbers of infections on buses deprived the public of the ability to make measured decisions about the possible risk of using that mode of transportation.
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